Habeas corpus: What does it mean in the Ferguson case?

An MU law professor breaks down the legal aspects Ferguson's case.

After nearly a decade in prison, Ryan Ferguson may only have 15 more days behind bars.

"It's a human system, we're never going to bat 100 percent and always get it right. Fortunately I think the system does get it right much of the time, probably even most of the time but it doesn't all of the time and I think there are things that we could do to minimize the number of wrongful convictions," said MU law professor Rod Uphoff.

It's been a long legal rollercoaster ride for Ferguson in the court system.

His conviction was overturned today after his legal counsel submitted a writ of habeas corpus.

But what does that actually mean?

MU law professor Rod Uphoff said it's the last resort for a defendant to challenge their imprisonment, claiming the government is holding him or her illegally. In turn, they'd have to provide examples of this.

"In Ferguson's case, he was able to raise this in a writ of habeas corpus because he could say 'I didn't know that they withheld this information from me, I just found out about it after I had exhausted my appeal rights," said Uphoff.

The prosecution failed to present key evidence in the form of an interview with a state witness' wife that Ferguson's attorney argued could have impacted the jury's decision in Ferguson's conviction.

Uphoff said he doesn't think the prosecution would have much of a case if they sent Ferguson back to trial.

"The only real evidence that the state would have is Chuck Erickson, and Chuck Erickson...he's given so many different stories that his credibility is's not very strong. So if the state put him on they'd have to try to argue that his first story is the accurate one, the one where he says that he and Ferguson were involved in the killing...but then the defense would be able to impeach him with all of his subsequent stories," said Uphoff.